Acupressure is a little known technique that works well to augment other comfort measures you may use during childbirth such as breathing or relaxation exercises, heat or ice packs. While most people recognize that acupressure is often used to induce labor or help progress labor, mothers can also get good labor pain relief with acupressure.
One of the best things about acupressure is that it does not always require a trained professional in order to use the pressure points. Since you are using your fingers and not needles, acupressure can be applied by your labor partner, doula or yourself.
Acupressure Useful for Treating Morning Sickness
Some of the best points for morning sickness are found on the inside of your wrist. These are called Pericardium 5 and 6. To find P 5, place your thumb on the inside of your opposite forearm, three finger widths from the center of your wrist crease. Apply firm pressure with your thumb for one minute. To find P 6, place your thumb two finger widths from your wrist crease and apply pressure for another minutes. Press on these acupressure points anytime your start to feel morning sickness or nausea.
Acupressure Used to Turn Breech Babies
The acupressure point often used to turn your baby from a breech to a head down position (or from any other malposition to a more favorable position) can be found on the outside of your smallest toe. This pressure point is called Bladder 67. You can locate it at the outside of your little toe, at the base of the nail.
Some acupuncturists also use heat (often in the form of moxibustion) on B 67 to turn a breech baby during pregnancy. If you are uncertain about your baby’s position, it is best to consult with a licensed acupuncturist for more information on using this pressure point.
Acupressure Used to Induce Labor or Increase Intensity of Contractions
A few of the most popular points to induce labor or increase contractions are known as Spleen 6 and Hoku or Large Intestine 4. Spleen 6 can be found four finger widths above the inside of your ankle bone. Press for one minute, one side at a time. Or both ankles points can be pressed simultaneously.
Hoku or LI 4 is found in the webbing between the thumb and index finger. You will find it at the highest spot of the muscle when the thumb and index finger are brought closer together. This is a familiar point to many people since it also effective in relieving headaches.
Continue to use these pressure points on and off if they help increase contraction strength. These points work well in combination with other labor techniques to increase the intensity of contractions such as position changes and walking during labor. These acupressure points can work best when your water has broken but contractions have not started yet. Do not use these points until you are very close to or have passed your due date.
Acupressure for Labor Pain Relief
Both of the two points above can also be used for relief of labor pain. In addition, you can try a point on your shoulders known as Gallbladder 21. You can locate GB 21 by placing your fingertips directly on the muscle on the top of your shoulders close to your neck, one to two inches out from the side of the lower neck. These two spots are easy to apply to yourself, or have your labor partner or doula press them standing behind you.
There are several sacral pressure points (known as Bladder 27-34) at the base of your spine that are also effective for labor pain relief, including back labor. You can reach these points by either briskly rubbing the base of your spine to create warmth or lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the bed while rocking your pelvis right and left to stimulate these sacral points. Your doula or partner could also use a tennis ball or making a fist and rubbing their knuckles around the area of your lower spine to stimulate these sacral points.
You might try stimulating these points during contractions and then try a contraction or two without pressing on the acupressure points, to see if they help to provide some labor pain relief.
Tips for Finding Acupressure Points
When you are stimulating the correct place with acupressure, the points often feel tender to the touch. They will often feel as if you are touching a slight bruise. If they feel tender or sensitive, you know you have found the right spot! If you have any questions, seek help from a licensed acupuncturist.